We all know that perfume is a powerful, beautiful gift, but can it really be compared to a painting or a photograph?
It depends on the context in which it is made, says Prof. Chris Cawthon from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Exeter, UK.
It may seem like a straightforward question, but in fact it has a very specific meaning, he says.
If you have a photo of a flower or an object that is beautiful, you will often be able to tell whether that image is of flowers or of a photograph.
The reason is that a photograph of a plant is typically of its leaves, while a flower is typically covered by the pollen, which is the same kind of material used in a photograph to create a 3D image.
So, a photo is usually made up of three elements, says Cawethon, and these are the colour, the depth and the sharpness.
What are the key ingredients of beautiful perfumes?
“In general, the key ingredient is the pigment, which has the ability to reflect light, so that the colour and depth can be reproduced,” says Cottrell.
The key ingredient for a beautiful scent is fragrance, says Chris Cottell.
Photo by Mark Klima for New Scientist This means that, when perfumes are made, a specific pigment is chosen to reflect the light and the depth of a given object, says David Mascaro, a lecturer in chemistry at University College London.
“If you look at a picture of a human, for example, you can look at the depth, and the brightness, and you can see the difference between that person and an object of the same weight,” says Mascarello.
A very beautiful perfumery is composed of two elements: fragrance and oil.
When a perfumer applies a specific colour and texture to an object, the object’s colour and/or texture will change, according to Cottrel.
A good example is a bottle of perfume.
“So, for instance, if you take a perfume, such as a lemon or orange, you put a bit of perfume on the end of it, and then you apply it to your wrist.
So the oil, or the pigment that is applied to the end, is going to have an effect on the colour of the perfume,” says Fyodor Vysotsky, an expert on fragrance and one of the world’s foremost authorities on the chemistry of perfume and its ingredients.
But what about a more basic colour?
“A basic colour is something that you can buy in any store.
There are various kinds of basic colours that you could buy, and some of them have different properties,” says Prof Chris Cowthon.
A colour is a combination of light and shade.
“Light is what gives a colour its colour, and shade is what keeps the colour from fading,” says Mark Klemmer, a professor of chemistry at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
“The colours that are the best for a perfume are ones that have both of these properties, so they give a good balance between the lightness and the shade,” he adds.
How do you determine what colour you’re looking for?
“So we use colour analysis.
You take a colour, put it on a surface, and we test how it changes as we look at it.
This is the basic technique of colour analysis, but we also use other techniques,” says Klemner.
“It’s a really important technique.
A basic colour has a lot of colour, so if you have just a few colours on a single surface, you could have a very dark colour.
If that surface is a lamp, you might have a yellow light, and a white light, or you could see something that is quite light, but you can also have a light-grey colour,” he explains.
“A very good perfume is one that is very bright, with lots of colour.
A light-medium perfume is probably going to be a bit less bright, but a light perfume has more colour, it’s a little more natural,” says Chris.
The light-dark colour is usually a reflection of the shade that is added to the colour.
“For instance, a light colour is going for a very soft, cool, matte finish, so it has to have a lot more colour to give it that,” says the expert.
A natural colour is one in which the colour reflects a lot less light.
“You can find a lot, if not all, of natural colour in a lot-light colour, because the colours are reflective enough that you see a lot.
So you have that natural colour, you just have to use more light to get the colour you want,” says Darryl Gurney, a fragrance expert and a lecturer at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.
But there are also artificial colours, which are created by mixing pigments.
“What happens is you take something like an orange, and, in addition to the natural